On April 4, 2014, Janet McCullar, Nikki G. Maples, and Melissa A. Cook attended the annual Bench Bar Conference hosted by the Austin Bar Association. It was a morning of lectures related to legal ethics and an opportunity to meet with judges in our community face to face. Like any profession, it is necessary to dust off the cobwebs from time to time and take a refresher course on the rules of ethics. Generally speaking, if the issue “smells bad”, then don’t risk the conduct. Lawyers are required to complete a specific number of hours related to continued legal education focusing primarily on ethics. Unfortunately, it can be astonishing the number of unethical bad acts committed by lawyers every year – clearly, those lawyers did not implement the “smell test” before committing the bad act.
Of course, one of the most entertaining parts of the day was the speed drill by local judges. In a room filled with rows tables, every judge in attendance was seated at one of those tables. This was a 6-minute opportunity to discuss anything desired by the lawyers. After the 6 minutes was up, the judges rotated to a different table. We discussed topics related to pet peeves by judges, current events, plans for a new courthouse, etc. Casual face time with local judges can be a rare occurrence, so opportunities like judge speed drills can be a lot of fun.
However, the most fabulous presentation of the day was the Family Law presentation titled, “Cheating on Your Spouse Financially.” The panel consisted of Janet McCullar, Becky A. Beaver, and Judge Orlinda Naranjo. For comic relief and moderation, Martin Boozer kept the room laughing. Janet and Becky shared ideas and strategies for identifying whether a spouse has diverted or wasted money without the other spouse’s knowledge. Likewise, Judge Naranjo shared her view of these issues from the bench and offered insight about these issues as they arise in her courtroom. It was largely entertaining and intriguing to hear the various perspectives on such a complex legal issue.
The day ended with a heartfelt recognition of Judge John Dietz as he approaches retirement. Judge Dietz, who is infamously known for his “Godzilla Corner” on his bench has served in the judiciary for Travis County since…well, let’s just say ‘before the mold’ set in on the walls of the Travis County Courthouse. He will forever be remembered as one of our best District Judges in Austin, Texas.
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